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Chemical plants' safety a work in progress

By Du Juan in Qingdao, Shandong province | China Daily | Updated: 2013-09-05 07:23

The nation's chemical industry still faces challenges involving work safety after more than 20 years of development, but the government will continue to make great efforts to improve the situation, said a senior official on Wednesday.

In recent years, the industry has become safer, with fewer accidents and workplace deaths, even as the sector has grown 15 percent annually, said Sun Huashan, vice-minister of the State Administration of Work Safety.

Sun was speaking during the first China International Chemical Process Safety Symposium, which was held in Qingdao, Shandong province.

He said that China has established a complete work safety system in the chemical industry, which has reduced accidents and deaths. Last year, the number killed in the industry fell below 100 for the first time, a decline of 22 percent year-on-year. The number of production accidents declined 33 percent.

During the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010), the number of accidents was reduced 62 percent and deaths fell 51 percent.

However, Sun said safety in the sector still falls short of international levels, and the industry's rapid growth has created increasing challenges for producers.

China's urbanization has been part of that challenge, said Wang Haijun, deputy director of the No 3 Department (Hazardous chemicals) of Work Safety Supervision within SAWS.

Some chemical factories that are located in what were once suburban or rural areas have found themselves within the boundaries of expanding cities, raising the issue of how they can "harmoniously co-exist with the urban public system", he said.

"As the economy grows, the public's tolerance is falling concerning chemical production accidents," he added.

Wang noted other issues. Most domestic chemical companies are small or mid-sized producers that use obsolete technology and equipment, making it difficult to improve the safety of their operations.

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